Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why the French should be grateful to the English

Last night I was busily working on my laptop while my husband watched a series of back to back CSI episodes on channel 5. Last of all (post midnight) was an hour with NCIS, effectively the Naval version of these. Which I enjoy for its witty interplay between the family of characters, and for the presence of that hard working and lovely actor, David McCallum - with whom I was very healthily in love, when I was 13 and he was Illya Kuryakin in The Man From UNCLE. And no, I'm not really digressing.

Wrapped up, as I was, in the piece of writing I was polishing, I was barely taking notice, although I did gather that the episode was a kind of climax to some other episodes I'd seen, because there were highly compressed and effective flashbacks to various scenes I recognised. I wasn't paying much attention though, except to note that the Director lady was obsessing about a person called Larg Ren Wee (Asian? I wondered) and she had been seen to incite Tony Dinozzo (pronounced Dee-nozo) to seduce some relation of his, called Jarn Ben Wah. I partially decoded Jarn as John but couldn't work out why Tony - a very hetero male - would agree to this, even in the line of duty. He did seem a little reluctant.

Enter David McCallum as Dr Donald "Ducky" Mallard (and as a Millard how I cringe at the dreadful puns involved there) - so I perk up - well you do, don't you, when Illya Kuryakin pops up and adds a little Britishness to the scenery. and he starts discussing these two Asian named characters, whose names Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) tends to mumble a little self consciously. And behold, the lovely Mr McCallum sayeth, in a crystal clear Parisian accent, that the man whose death they are all investigating is nicknamed "La Grenouille", the Frog, and his real surname is Benoit, and his daughter - yes a DAUGHTER, whom Tony has been very happy to seduce - is Jeanne Benoit. Not Larg Ren Wee but La Grenouille. Not Jarn Ben Wah but Jeanne Benoit.

So I humbly apologise to all French speakers for the mangled job some English speaking "actors" make of their language.

And presumably they also talk about Princess Arn, Arn of Green Gables, and Arnie Get Your Gun?


Mary Witzl said...

David McCallum speaks proper French? If I'd known that as a kid, I'd have been even more smitten. I was generally torn between Mr Spock and Ilya Kuryakin, both of whom projected such intense intelligence. I ached to think they would admire my 14-year-old gaucherie.

Sue Millard said...

I can't believe the lovely man is 77 years old! And was an oboeist before he was an actor? and has learned so much forensic science during NCIS that they were considering making him an advisor? Now there's a brain!